Back in the earliest days of VHS (yep, I’m that old), my family used to rent from a joint called STAGE DOOR VIDEO in King of Prussia Mall. It was actually more like an expanded kiosk that would pull down a metal gate when it was closed. Anyway, the horror/sci-fi section seemed immense to me at the time though in reality, it was probably less than a hundred films. My favorite, most trusted VHS label was easily MEDIA because they offered the likes of HALLOWEEN and HELL NIGHT and so it was only a matter of time before I rented another title on their roster, LASERBLAST. I had seen much more disturbing horror films by that time, so it’s not exactly accurate to say that LASERBLAST scared or traumatized me but it did in fact, freak me out a bit. Which may be a little odd as it’s widely considered to be an inept film (it was even featured on MST3) and its poor reputation miraculously has not improved one iota over the decades. Still, a recent re-watch reminded me that once it gave me a strong feeling of nauseous unease.
For a weird kid like me, LASERBLAST had a rather irresistible power fantasy plot, It’s about a bullied, socially awkward young man named Billy (KIM MILFORD) who finds a laser gun/arm cannon left behind by a stop-motion alien; Billy then decides to exact his revenge by blowing all who wronged him into smithereens. The creepy element for me, at the time, was that the more Billy used his newfound power/weapon the sicker and more monstrous he became. The actor who played Billy just happened to bear a strong resemblance to MARK HAMILL as Luke Skywalker (surely not by accident) and so, in my post STAR WARS head, it was almost like watching Luke become a sick, deranged ghoul. Now, I was not the healthiest of kids and had spent much time dealing with doctors and hospitals due to allergies and asthma (that has mostly gone away) so the idea of getting sick, catching a disease, really got to me (and is probably why this memory is resurfacing now during a pandemic). My viewing also took place during the early eighties when many a nightly newscast and weekly news magazine were reporting on AIDS at regular intervals with horrific images and a rightfully panicked tone. Billy’s dark, sunken eyes mirrored the headlines.
So yep, this kinda dopey (yet not uncreative) movie got under my skin more than a little bit and at least deeply enough for me to remember it all these years later (and I can almost smell some pungent doctor office scent as I do). As faulty as it may be, it’s hard to hate on such a simple and pure fable about the corrosive nature of revenge and exploited power. LASERBLAST may not be remembered fondly by many (although an ethereal performance from CHERYL “RAINBEAUX” SMITH of LEMURA fame is reason enough to watch it), but it’ll always represent a particular part of my awkward youth and certain fears that lay far back in my brain, ready to resurface.
I’d still like to find a laser gun though- I promise I wouldn’t abuse it…much.